Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Deaf Awareness

The parents of one of my former pupils, who is severely deaf, contacted me. Their daughter is coming to the end of her primary school education and they were not satisfied with the local state school provision at secondary level. They have chosen to send her to the same independent school on Exmoor that my own children attended but the Local Education Authority has decided they will not offer any support, even in the form of advising the staff on how to prepare to accommodate a deaf child in lessons. (That is a measure of the Every Child Matters policy, but that is another story!)

Of course I agreed to go to speak to the staff.  I brushed off the cobwebs that have been growing in my brain since I retired four years ago, put together a presentation and off I went yesterday afternoon. I hadn't expected to see 60 teachers waiting attentively but, after a few wobbly moments with the unfamiliar audio-visual equipment and a few very deep breaths, I was off and it proved to be the most interesting and stimulating session I have ever been involved in.

Purely by coincidence, this also happens to be Deaf Awareness Week in the UK. The slogan this year is "Look at Me." This is a reminder that anyone with any degree of hearing loss - and that means most of the population over the age of about 55 as well as those who were born with a hearing impairment - needs to see the face of the person who is speaking. It also reminds us of the achievements of people who are deaf; deafness can make certain aspects of life difficult but it should not prevent anyone from achieving their potential and enjoying life to the full.

I worked in the public sector for most of my professional life. I saw a great deal of inefficiency and waste, countless unnecessary changes and projects started and not seen through, while the steady day-to-day work was undervalued. I wouldn't put my own children through the system but did my best to support those children and families for whom I was responsible. I was always a campaigner for change so I do hope the new coalition government means what it says about making local authorities more cost effective and accountable for their decisions.


  1. Bet you had them eating out of your hand, M, and I'm so glad that the presentation went well. A subject very close to both our hearts.

    And what a brilliant slogan. This is what all of us who live with deafness seem to grapple with daily. Yes, look at us and speak clearly; don't mumble, don't cover your mouth with your hands (amazing how many people do this). And no, not all of us lip-read, and, no, shouting at us does not help.

    I would love to see all children, whatever their accent, taught to speak clearly, with good enunciation; apart from the difference it will make to anyone they might meet who has a hearing impairment, clear speech is a skill that will be an asset throughout their lives. Some of the worst offenders in terms of unclear speech in this area are the Sloaney types (of all ages), whose speech is little more than a supercilious drawl, delivered somewhere between their nostrils and barely moving lips - a complete nightmare and a great offence to the ear, irrespective of one's level of hearing.

    Right; I feel better now!

  2. Well done for responding to both elements, D - deafness and grumpy old woman. Perhaps we should put a roadshow together and take it all round the country!

    I love the description of your local Sloanies, I can both picture and hear them. Our local worst offenders are the horsey set - they look and sound like their steeds and it is awfully hard to understand the words between the head-back-teeth-bared intakes of breath.

  3. Your comments made me laugh as I was reminded of the song, Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak? from “My Fair Lady.” I was amused too by the missing apostrophe in the YouTube title.

  4. Well done you.We are having a similar problem with a day nursery where Logan is due to start in September.He wont keep his hearing aids in at the moment but the staff are insisting that if he takes them out they are not allowed to put them back in and he would have to do it himself!He is 21 months old!!!

  5. Thanks for the link, e, I haven't seen My Fair Lady for a very long time and I really enjoyed the clip.

  6. M&M
    I'm really sorry about the problem with the nursery. Some places take the Health and Safety rules to extremes but perhaps your daughter could give them written consent to replace the hearing aids.
    The audiologist or teacher of the deaf should be able to supply a clip for the hearing aids so that they will not be lost if your grandson pulls them out. There are also special grips to keep them in the ear or some of my parents preferred to use toupee tape. You can get that from Connevans
    Keeping the hearing aids in is always a problem with such young children and can be discouraging and even distressing for families. Don't despair, it won't be too long before he appreciates that they make a difference to his life and he will be putting them in himself.

  7. m. I just realized that my earlier comment could have been seen as flippant and I assure you I’m very sympathetic to the problems you’ve dealt with in your professional life. I can only imagine how much more difficult bureaucratic intractability makes every day life for parents (and teachers) trying to make the best decisions for their children or students. Kudos to everyone making sure these kids get the help they need.

  8. e, Don't worry, I realised at once that you were referring to the the comments and not the content of the post!

  9. Thanks for your advice its very much appreciated.


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